KABUL, Afghanistan – After meeting again with President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid a visit on Tuesday to a group of women who have managed to make their way in male-dominated Afghan society.
The event, held in the secured confines of the U.S. Embassy compound, was intended to demonstrate the progress that women have made in Afghanistan since the days of Taliban rule. But it also underscored the apprehension among the women about the course their country will follow after 2014, when the government in Kabul is scheduled to take full responsibility for security in the country, challenging the American vision for Afghanistan, which still includes a democratic system that ensures women's rights, and worries that Afghanistan's military and civic institutions might not be able to manage the transition.
Kerry, who later flew to Paris for meetings there, asked the women how they had built up their businesses. He then spoke to a group of civil leaders preparing for Afghanistan's 2014 election. "You're engaged in a remarkable effort, and the whole world is watching," he said.
Afterward, the entrepreneurs expanded on their concerns. Business owner Hassina Syed said she has plenty of challenges, estimating that one-third of her budget is spent on security, but her major worry, she said, is that many of the country's new businesses will wither without a steady infusion of foreign spending. Many businesspeople are apprehensive and are already looking to move their money to the United States, Britain or the United Arab Emirates, Syed said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.